When I was 15 years old, the protests in Syria began – a game changer for most people. I lived in a pro-government area, but my views towards the Syrian government changed a lot. Like many high school students, I was thinking of running away and joining the fight against the government. But social revolutions can be sincere or misleading – and sadly the revolution turned out to be the latter.
At that time, I decided I wanted to get into politics, which wasn’t very common, especially as Syria had been a single party state for the last 40 years. But I was inspired by what I was reading online about our political history and I believed change was possible.
Unfortunately, the war started, and soon my city was under attack. Eventually, I went to visit my dad, who was living in Dubai, and because the airports closed I was never able to go back to Syria. I lived in Dubai for two years – for years 11 and 12. Then I came to Australia to go to university because my parents had actually successfully applied for permanent residency when I was young.
I chose to study International Relations. My dad did initially try to convince me to take another course, which now makes sense to me as I am now unemployed with an International Relations degree! But I don’t regret it. I’m doing my honours degree, and hopefully my Masters next year. My mum wanted to see me graduate from school here in Australia, which unfortunately didn’t happen because her visa was refused. So I thought I had to get another degree for her to see me graduate!
Sometimes I feel like I should’ve lived in a different time. Back in the day, young people could meet up with like-minded people and start political parties, and start a revolution. Now it’s more difficult, especially for me as I live in exile. I struggle a lot, emotionally and mentally. I am constantly reading about what’s happening in Syria. First thing I do every day is read the news, and the last thing I do is read about some terrorist organisation or a faction of the opposition. It takes a toll on you over time.
Many people I know have died, and I know I’m really lucky to have survived. But I also feel it is a responsibility. I would love to one day return to Syria, and help rebuild the political infrastructure. I have always been inspired by Robert F. Kennedy’s words: ‘Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’
My worry is that when I return, I will be asking, ‘Is this still home? And after all this time away, will I be accepted?’
Photographer: David Brewster www.davidbrewsterphotography.com
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